jan 24, 2011: just attended a reading of joan holden’s play “nickel and dimed” at geva theater. the play is based on barbara ehrenreich’s book in which she says provocatively: “when someone works for less pay than she can live on – when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently – then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. the working poor, as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. they neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. to be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”
i found the play depressing – there is a hopelessness that comes from the constant, exhausting struggle for survival among america’s working poor. it’s difficult to witness. but i was more depressed by many in the audience who, in the post play discussion, expressed their disenchantment with unions. unions can be run competently or not, but the benefits of organizing workers in order to offer them some protection in a ruthless corporate work environment is a no-brainer. we need a strong movement for economic justice which can articulate all of this. the present situation is unacceptable, untenable.